Chapter 3. Culture
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Figure 3.1. Graffiti’s mix of colourful drawings, words, and symbols is a vibrant expression of culture—or, depending on one’s viewpoint, a psychic expression the the creator’s lack of respect for a community’s mutual space. (Photo courtesy of aikijuanma/flickr)

Learning Objectives

3.1. What Is Culture?

Differentiate between culture and societyExplain material versus nonmaterial cultureDiscuss the concept of cultural universalism together it relates come societyCompare and contrast ethnocentrism and xenocentrism

3.2. Aspects of Culture

Understand just how values and also beliefs different from normsExplain the definition of symbols and language come a cultureExplain the Sapir-Whorf hypothesisDiscuss the function of social control within culture

3.3. Pop Culture, Subculture, and social Change

Discuss the roles of both high culture and pop society within societyDifferentiate between subculture and countercultureExplain the role of innovation, invention, and discovery in cultureUnderstand the duty of social lag and globalization in social change

3.4. Theoretical Perspectives on Culture

Discuss the significant theoretical ideologies to social interpretation

Introduction come Culture

Are over there rules because that eating at McDonald’s? Generally, we carry out not think about rules in a quick food restaurant, yet if friend look about one ~ above a usual weekday, you will certainly see human being acting together if they to be trained because that the function of quick food customer. They stand in line, choose items from the colourful menus, swipe debit cards come pay, and also wait to collect trays that food. ~ a rapid meal, client wad increase their paper wrappers and toss them right into garbage cans. Customers’ movement through this rapid food regimen is orderly and predictable, also if no rules are posted and also no officials direct the process.

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If you want an ext insight right into these unwritten rules, think around what would occur if girlfriend behaved follow to some other standards. (You would certainly be doing what sociologists contact ethnomethodology: deliberately disrupting social norms in order come learn about them.) for example, contact ahead because that reservations, questioning the cashier in-depth questions around the food’s ingredients or how it is prepared. Ask to have actually your meal served to friend at her table. Or throw your trash top top the ground together you leave. Opportunities are, you will certainly elicit enemy responses indigenous the restaurant employees and your other customers.

People have actually written entire books evaluating the significance of fast food customs. They research the extensive, in-depth physicality of rapid food: the food itself, wrappers, bags, trays, those tiny ketchup packets, the tables and chairs, and also even the restaurant building. Everything about a chain restaurant mirrors culture, the beliefs and also behaviours the a social group shares. Sociological evaluation can be used to every expression that culture, native sporting occasions to holidays, from education to transportation, from fashion come etiquette.

In daily conversation, civilization rarely distinguish between the terms “culture” and “society,” yet the terms have slightly different meanings, and the distinction is important to a sociologist. A society defines a group of civilization who re-superstructure a typical territory and also a culture. Through “territory,” sociologists describe a definable region—as tiny as a neighbourhood (e.g., east Vancouver or “the west next of town”), as huge as a country (e.g., Ethiopia, Canada, or Nepal), or what in between (in Canada, this could include someone who identifies through the West Coast, the Prairies, or Atlantic Canada). Come clarify, a society represents the beliefs, practices and also artifacts the a group, while society represents the society structures and also organization that the civilization who re-publishing those beliefs and practices. Neither culture nor culture could exist there is no the other. In this chapter, we research the partnership between society and culture in greater detail, paying special attention to the elements and also forces that shape culture, including diversity and social changes. A final discussion touches top top the different theoretical perspectives indigenous which sociologists research culture.

3.1. What Is Culture?

Humans are social creatures. Because the dawn of Homo sapiens nearly 250,000 years ago, world have grouped with each other into neighborhoods in order to survive. Life together, people kind common habits and behaviours—from specific methods that childrearing to preferred techniques because that obtaining food. In modern Paris, many civilization shop daily at outdoor sectors to pick up what they need for your evening meal, purchase cheese, meat, and also vegetables from different specialty stalls. In the Canada, the bulk of world shop when a week in ~ supermarkets, filling big carts to the brim. The Parisian Roland Barthes disdainfully described this as “the hasty autumn up” that a “more mechanically civilization” (Barthes 1977).

Almost every person behaviour, native shopping to marital relationship to expression of feelings, is learned. In Canada, world tend to view marriage as a an option between 2 people, based on mutual feelings of love. In various other nations and in various other times, marriages have been arranged with an intricate procedure of interviews and also negotiations in between entire families, or in other cases, v a direct system such together a “mail stimulate bride.” come someone raised in Winnipeg, the marriage custom-mades of a household from Nigeria may seem strange, or also wrong. Conversely, someone from a classic Kolkata family could be perplexed through the idea that romantic love as the foundation for the lifelong meeting of marriage. In various other words, the method in which people view marriage depends greatly on what they have actually been taught.

Behaviour based upon learned customizeds is no a bad thing. Being familiar with unwritten rule helps human being feel secure and also “normal.” Most civilization want come live their day-to-day lives confident that their behaviours will certainly not be challenged or disrupted. But even an action as seemingly simple as commuting to work-related evidences a great deal of cultural propriety.

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Figure 3.2. Just how would a visitor indigenous a countryside Canadian city act and also feel ~ above this overfilled Tokyo train? (Photo courtesy the simonglucas/flickr)

Take the case of walking to work-related on windy transportation. Even if it is commuting in Dublin, Cairo, Mumbai, or Vancouver, countless behaviours will certainly be the exact same in every locations, but far-reaching differences also arise between cultures. Typically, a passenger would find a significant bus avoid or station, wait because that the bus or train, salary an agent before or ~ boarding, and quietly take it a chair if one is available. However when boarding a bus in Cairo, passengers can have come run, due to the fact that buses there often do not concerned a full stop to take on patrons. Dublin bus riders would be meant to prolong an eight to show that they want the bus to avoid for them. And also when boarding a commuter train in Mumbai, passengers must squeeze right into overstuffed cars amid a the majority of pushing and also shoving top top the overfilled platforms. That type of behaviour would be thought about the elevation of rudeness in Canada, yet in Mumbai it reflects the daily challenges of getting around on a train mechanism that is taxed to capacity.

In this example of commuting, culture consists of think (expectations about an individual space, for example) and also tangible things (bus stops, trains, and also seating capacity). Material culture describes the objects or belongings of a team of people. Subway passes and bus tokens are part of material culture, as space automobiles, stores, and also the physical structures where world worship. Nonmaterial culture, in contrast, consists of the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs the a society. Material and nonmaterial elements of culture are linked, and physical objects often symbolize cultural ideas. A metro pass is a product object, yet it represents a type of nonmaterial culture, namely, capitalism, and also the accept of paying because that transportation. Clothing, hairstyles, and also jewellery are component of material culture, yet the appropriateness that wearing particular clothing for specific events mirrors nonmaterial culture. A school building belongs to product culture, but the to teach methods and educational requirements are part of education’s nonmaterial culture. This material and also nonmaterial facets of culture can vary subtly from an ar to region. As human being travel aside from that afield, moving from different regions to entirely various parts of the world, specific material and nonmaterial facets of culture become considerably unfamiliar. What happens when we encounter various cultures? together we connect with societies other than our own, we become an ext aware of the differences and also commonalities in between others’ worlds and also our own.

Cultural Universals

Often, a compare of one society to one more will reveal noticeable differences. However all cultures share typical elements. Cultural universals are patterns or characteristics that are globally usual to all societies. One example of a social universal is the household unit: every human culture recognizes a household structure that regulates sex-related reproduction and also the treatment of children. Also so, just how that family unit is defined and how it attributes vary. In many eastern cultures, for example, household members from every generations generally live with each other in one household. In this cultures, young adults will proceed to live in the extended household family structure until they marry and also join their spouse’s household, or they might remain and raise your nuclear family members within the prolonged family’s homestead. In Canada, by contrast, people are expected to leave home and also live separately for a duration before forming a family members unit consisting of parents and also their offspring.

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Anthropologist George Murdock first recognized the existence of social universals while studying systems of kinship around the world. Murdock discovered that social universals frequently revolve around simple human survival, such as finding food, clothing, and shelter, or approximately shared person experiences, such together birth and death, or illness and healing. Through his research, Murdock determined other universals including language, the principle of personal names, and, interestingly, jokes. Humor seems to be a universal means to release tensions and create a feeling of unity amongst people (Murdock 1949). Sociologists think about humour important to person interaction since it helps individuals navigate otherwise it s too dirty situations.